10 tips for perfect burgers
Discover the secrets to creating burger perfection. Follow our expert tips for achieving a juicy patty with plenty of flavour.
Shop-bought burgers are certainly the easy option but making your own is really simple and, once you know a few basics, you can throw the recipe book away and customise to your heart's content. Start with our recipe for homemade beef burgers for basic steps and follow the tips below to make your burgers extra special.
We've got plenty more inspiration for mastering this barbecue favourite. See our main collection of burger recipes and check out our ultimate burger guide. For accompaniments, we've got some of the best burger sauces you can make in minutes or, for a meat-free option, try our vegetarian burger recipes and vegan burger recipes.
10 tips for successful burgers every time:
1. Choose your meat
You want your burger to remain juicy so avoid going too lean. Choose a standard minced meat (usually around 20% fat) or, if you are set on leaner cuisine, then 10 % fat is okay, but don't go for less.
Chicken burgers are also becoming increasingly popular – for this we recommend using an extra lean chicken breast.
There are also many meat-free patty options, too. Try halloumi burgers, chickpea burgers, sweet potato burgers, beetroot burgers or seitan burgers. Check out our vegan burger recipes for more.
2. Add your flavourings
The world is your oyster when it comes to flavouring your burgers. Grated onions, finely chopped spring onions, crushed garlic, ground spices (cumin, coriander, ground chilli, fajita spice mixture, etc), mustard, chopped fresh or dried herbs, ground black pepper – pick the flavours you like. Think of tried and tested combinations:
- For Italian-style burgers, add crushed garlic, finely chopped parsley and grated parmesan to beef mince.
- For Moroccan-style burgers, add chopped coriander, ground cumin and a dollop of harissa paste to lamb mince.
- For Spanish-style burgers, add smoked paprika and finely chopped chorizo to pork mince.
If you're a fan of cheese, instead of topping your burger, make two thinner patties, pop a square of cheese in the middle, then squeeze the edges to seal – just remember to warn your guests about molten oozing when they bite in!
3. Bind the patty together
If you're going for a leaner meat or adding bulky ingredients (eg spring onions, onions, chillies), add an egg and a handful of breadcrumbs to bind the burgers.
4. Shape the patty
Give everything a thorough mix (it's good to get your hands in for this), then shape into burgers. "Squash the burgers really flat before you cook them. As they cook the meat will constrict, which will make the burgers smaller and fatter. Flatten them down with a spatula during cooking," suggests Cassie, our food editor.
5. Season the burgers well
"Don't add salt to the ground meat before it's shaped, or it'll draw the liquid out of the meat leaving you with a dry burger. Instead sprinkle the outside with salt as it cooks," adds Cassie.
6. Chill or freeze your burgers
"Chill your burgers for at least an hour before you cook them," says senior food editor, Barney. "This will help them keep their shape when they're cooking and stop them falling apart." You can also freeze them before cooking. Lay them on a tray in the freezer and, once they're frozen, pop them into freezer bags to save space. To defrost them, lay them back on the tray. Defrost throughly before cooking.
7. Cooking your burgers
- Pop your burgers on the barbecue or in a hot, non-stick frying pan with a little oil.
- Cook for 5-6 mins on each side for medium and 8-9 mins on each side for well done.
- The NHS Live Well website recommends not leaving any pink meat in your burger.
Before cooking your burgers, we suggest also giving them a quick sear at high temperature. This will help lock in the flavours and create a good crust.
- Heat a griddle or frying pan on high, add a tsp of oil, and sear each side of the burger for 1-2 mins before continuing with the main cooking process.
8. Steam the meat after cooking
Once the burger has browned on both sides, pop your cheese on top (if using) and cover with a small bowl or lid to finish off cooking – this will melt the cheese and keep all the lovely meaty juices inside the burger.
9. Toast the buns
Always toast soft buns as it keeps the sauces from sinking into them and gives you a nice contrast of textures. To do this, lightly butter the cut sides of the buns and put them face down on a grill or barbecue for a few minutes until they become golden brown, with a slightly crisp texture.
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10. Try out different toppings and sauces
There are so many options when it comes to burger toppings and condiments. Here are a few suggestions to try:
- Add in some vegetables such as caramelised onions, fried mushrooms, crispy lettuce, onion rings, avocado slices or guacamole, and tangy pickles such as gherkins
- Crispy bacon is always a brilliant flavour booster as well as adding that wonderful crisp texture
- Different of cheeses can really ramp up the taste. If opting for cheddar, we recommend using the most mature variety you can find. For something stronger, try raclette, smoked gouda, brie or stilton
- Sauces – try our recipe for a classic burger sauce to serve on top of your burger. Other options which work well include homemade ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, burger relish, aioli and mustard.
- A fried egg – why not go all out and crown your burger with the perfect fried egg? A runny yolk will add extra moisture to the patty while the whites provide a nice crispy texture.
Learn how to make delicious, juicy cheeseburgers with our video guide:
Get more brilliant burger ideas:
Share you favourite burger tips and flavourings below